I’m still ruminating on the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1–12) and feeling called back to them again and again.
I was reflecting on them at Kings College’s Commemoration Service last month.
Matthew certainly draws a picture of Jesus as the new Moses, the new law-giver for a new community, and what we have come to call the beatitudes are the opening statements of this new “law”.
Yet they’re not instructions; they’re statements, proclamations of a state we all long for—blessedness!
It’s as if this “new law” is not about externalities; the boundaries of acceptable behaviour, but more about, or at least starting from, that which is internal; what our heart disposition is. And they start from the end, not the beginning. They start with the end in mind; the state of blessedness.
The formation of human society is a deeply complex thing; it’s about dealing with hopes and aspirations—often unverbalised.
It’s also about dealing with the variety of external chaos sources that would come and destroy, and also the internal chaos sources, mainly derived from fear, that would disrupt and collapse.
Jesus’ vision of the kingdom of heaven is of a human community that deals with this chaos, not by setting up laws for behaviour, boundaries for who’s in and who’s out, but by calling us to face that which we might fear, and embrace those that embody that; thus transforming our fear—and even our loathing—and creating a community of the reconciled. That is, those reconciled to themselves, to the other, and to God. It’s a society based on the confidence of the goodness and faithfulness of God to deal with our hopes and our fears.
It seems to be in our nature that we resile from that which does not demonstrate blessedness according to our imagining of what that is.
We struggle to embrace those who are suffering; we avoid, or at lease manage well, our exposure to grief; we’ll be merciful if it’s at a manageable distance; we’ll join one side of a conflict rather than seek to bring peace; we’ll compromise our true self in order to be accepted.
Yet Jesus points us to the kingdom, where experiencing blessedness is in courageously and faithfully standing in the place of vulnerability and fear, refusing to exclude, and living out our faith in the goodness of God.
What a challenge!
Rev David Baker